Last night I was lucky enough to be invited to an International Festival of Business (IFB) 2014 Everton event that included a presentation from the club's CEO, Robert Elstone, and a Q&A session with Roberto Martinez.

The affair was relatively low-key with no more than 20-25 audience members from the Fans Forum, sponsors, Everton Heritage Society, the club and the IFB. I attended as a sponsor of one of the games last season (and also a lounge member).

I haven't had anything to do with the IFB 2014 and today is the last day for events. When it revisits in 2016, I will be going as much of what was on display looked very informative and useful... but I digress.

The following is what I took from the session – I try not to offer opinion on the content as I will leave that to you.

The Q&A from my seat (with apologies to Ken Buckley)

First up was a video regarding the last 12 months at Everton. As always, it was positive and uplifting, showing the club's performance in a good light (obviously).

The video was followed by a 30-minute presentation from Robert Elstone. It was extremely well delivered and consisted of three parts:

  1. Everton
  2. The Premier League & Everton
  3. Everton in the Community

The meeting was held in the IFB Hub in Mann Island. Mr Elstone’s presentation, while Everton related, focused on the business of football and the impact the Premier League has had as a business model in improving the game and competition.

He mentioned the investment from the PL and the capital investment from football clubs being around £1.5bn for facilities, stadia etc and commented that Everton are behind in that respect but the challenge continues with more and more effort placed on a new stadium.

Sky pay the PL £6.5m per televised game from this season onwards, of which each club receives £750k to £1.5M (depending on home or away etc). That has given us a good surge in revenue which will go toward finding and capturing 'rare' talent to improve the first team for a push into Europe.

Mr Elstone believes that, given the introduction of BT and other competitors for TV rights internationally, the revenue from the PL will continue to grow year on year. Taking into account the relative ‘equal’ distribution of funding (compared to Spain, Germany), the PL is a better, more competitive product and its strict division of funding is what is behind its success. The funding ratio between the best and worst team is 1.5:1 in the PL where as in Spain it is 7.0:1 – a huge difference but clearly the reason behind why the PL is fairly even and competitive.

Interesting fact: the 2012-13 season we had the best ‘point per pound of salary’ figure in the league. We finished 6th, paying the 12th most expensive wage bill. Something else the club is proud of. Martinez endorsed this later by saying money only accelerates progress but, at Everton, it was a long-term, controlled philosophy.

Improving the Fan Experience

He commented that the club needs to be 'easier to buy from' and that the experience of being part of the club and investing in it, while improved, is still not good enough (or where he wants it to be). The ethos of the mission statement is being worked towards but not yet fully realised or achieved. That being — 'to make all Evertonians proud to be blue'.

Mr Elstone wants the club to be at the forefront of the city, with Everton on every corner – sighting the Tesco Express ‘dominance’ as an inspiration and something he’d like to follow and see at the club!

He apologised for the kit fiasco and commented that he was disappointed at the outcome as it was unacceptable, promising us to never experience this again after internal investigation and learning.

Club not a Business

He continually, throughout, emphasized that Everton is and wishes to remain a 'club' – not a business or brand – and fan experience is the main focus. Next season will see a larger fan park and kids deals to reflect this.

Mr Elstone wants the atmosphere to be the main reason people visit the club. His vision for the future very much includes children and keeping them as fans through the atmosphere and buzz on a match day – the £95 season ticket playing a key part in ensuring kids come to Goodison Park.

Elstone wrapped up with figures on fan satisfaction, stewarding etc all of which, compared to our peers, were superb.

Development is key

He told us that high emphasis is placed on the academy with £5M per season being pumped in, equivalent to £28k per academy player and that we will reap these benefits in the near future.

As far as transfers were concerned, the club was extremely busy trying to do business and bring in Roberto's targets. Money is available and it's a case of getting the right players for the right money. All football related decisions have been left to the manager, which he confirmed later during his session..

Everton in the Community

The community part was excellent. It's fair to say we are leaders in that department and the work done is something to be proud of.

We have the biggest community setup in the world with 130 full time employees, 60 or so part time and 188 volunteers making a difference. Several stats where mentioned with a short video giving insight into the excellent work that EITC continues to output.

Mr Elstone firmly believes that EITC is envied by other clubs and something we should all be very proud of.

Roberto’s session

Naturally the manager was dressed to impress and true to form, did just that – impress. As is now expected, his presence was calm, collected and concise.

He started by telling us he visited Everton players at the World Cup (and the club sent each Everton International a gift pack with fan messages etc to remind them that the club was proud they were chosen to represent their nations!). He told a story of how he spoke to Ross Barkley after the Costa Rica game. Ross, full of positivity, told him playing in the World Cup was great but had we signed anybody! Roberto's answer was that he didn't want to talk about it but reassured us that things were in hand and players are on their way. We need a bigger squad and he was working on that. Signings will happen.

Some youth players will be promoted and will play next season as he felt they were ready.

Roberto couldn’t compliment the Academy enough and used it as the emphasis of many of his answers on the night.

On individuals, he mentioned Barkley as a special talent, raw but special.

John Stones, in his opinion is the best English defensive talent right now with great potential and will be the best centre half in the league due to his technical ability and mind set.

He was shocked (as was Robert Elstone) at Alan Irvine leaving but pleased Joe Royle agreed to step on board with his role dedicated to developing the older Academy boys into the first team. He said Joe understands the philosophy and is perfect for the job.

Asked if he was surprised how quick the team adapted to his style, he said he was very surprised. At Swansea it took 4 months, at Wigan 5 ‘Windows’ (3.5 seasons!). He commented at Everton it took just 7 training sessions before he felt they'd understood his style, expectations and philosophy – a testament to the players and talent at the club.

Despite being asked, he wouldn't divulge information on transfers.

He did mention that money accelerates first team development but in many cases papers over the cracks and he was keen to avoid that at Everton and instead wanted a long term development that is sustainable in the future. New signings would be used to elevate the club now but the future is in development of academy sides such as the current U16's who are extremely talented and exciting.

We didn't get a great deal of time with Roberto Martinez but the points were well received... the team will continue in its current philosophy as he feels this will show further improvements. Squad will be expanded with new signings and there is a huge effort being put into development, first hand in many cases as he likes to get involved with the academy on an almost daily basis.

The main message throughout the evening was one of positivity. The club is moving forward in the right direction and doing so in a controlled, planned and sensible way.

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Reader Comments (16)

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Ajay Gopal
1 Posted 22/07/2014 at 17:55:51
Thank you, Jamie. That was a wonderful report - just reaffirms my belief that the best signing that Everton have made in years (maybe decades) is getting Roberto as our manager. He just seems to have a very clear focus, very respectful of the clubs heritage & traditions, good vision of how he wants to take the club forward, and seems to be in for the long haul. I just feel the excitement in my veins - Everton will soon dominate English football again, maybe not this year or the year after, but 2-3 years down the line. This guy will put Everton back on the top pedestal - I can just feel it!
Paul Andrews
2 Posted 22/07/2014 at 18:12:41
Class act our Roberto.
Colin Glassar
3 Posted 22/07/2014 at 18:54:42
Great piece, I hope all the worriers read this. Roberto is a man with a plan and we have to learn to be patient as he revolutionises the club from top to bottom. Like Ajay said, this is medium to long term or as the Spanish say, poco a poco.
I love the bit about young Ross asking him if we'd signed anyone. It just goes to show that the players welcome new faces and competition as well.
Trevor Thompson
4 Posted 22/07/2014 at 19:10:23
I'd love to see us develop young players like Ajax do. I think it's the way forward.
Colin Glassar
5 Posted 22/07/2014 at 19:18:45
As long as we don't have to sell them all to subsist Trevor. Otherwise I totally agree.
Paul Andrews
6 Posted 22/07/2014 at 19:39:56
Roberto has a long term plan for our future development.We can't compete money wise with the super rich clubs,Roberto has already told us it is possible to compete without comparable funding, it just takes a little longer.

Those panicking to make a signing, ANY signing quickly, should bear his long term plan in mind.

Peter Warren
7 Posted 22/07/2014 at 19:59:08
I'm not panicking but am frustrated that despite 24/7 efforts we still aren't sold or have investment and still no further with stadium
Paul Andrews
8 Posted 22/07/2014 at 20:11:19

We all share that frustration. The asking price is probably the reason for no sale.

My point was more to the fans almost demanding that the manager makes a signing. That stance is silly

Ian Hollingworth
9 Posted 22/07/2014 at 22:14:09
Hang on, we were told before the World Cup that targets were identified and the recruitment dept were working on bringing them in.

Now, if there is a master plan in place and being worked to, why do we appear to not have a plan when it comes to transfers??

Peter Warren
10 Posted 22/07/2014 at 22:42:27
I agree Paul we don't have the money for short term quick fix. Investing in academy and youth and a holistic approach is the way forward.

I llove our manager and only criticism is that I wish he would take a leaf out of Germany's book in terms of set pieces.

Phil Walling
11 Posted 23/07/2014 at 09:09:31
I just wonder what business philosophy BK would have presented had he been invited to contribute.

No doubt a 24/7 commitment to 'seeking investors' would have featured heavily!

Matt Traynor
12 Posted 23/07/2014 at 09:50:25
Phil #11,

Looking at Elstone's presentation, no doubt there would've been more along those lines. FWIW I like the fact that Everton does try to engage with fans to a greater level than other clubs seem to, and EiTC is lauded for it's scale and achievement, but for our CEO to trot the "Club not a Business" line is wrong in my opinion. Hopefully he was going for the soundbite, but in fact, it's both.

The reality is we need to compete as much off the pitch as we do on it, and for some years now, we've been woeful commercially. To simply blame it on not being a London club, or having Liverpool dominate the city, is diversionary bollocks, to use the technical term.

Our total commercial income is poor – there are clubs we would consider to be inferior to us pulling in more from their main partner than we get from all our commercial operations. I've mentioned before that the Premier League has spawned a global multi-billion dollar industry to milk the markets off the back of the huge increase in global TV coverage, and we choose, as ever, to sit outside peering in jealously, for the refusal to pay for the advice and services offered, yet trumpet the truly terrible kit supply deal as an example of us pushing the boundaries.

Of the credulity of our supporters, maybe.

Mark Tanton
13 Posted 23/07/2014 at 10:11:50
Changing the subject... Looks like a black away kit on Friday?
Michael Winstanley
14 Posted 24/07/2014 at 11:29:15
Nice one, Jamie. I'm mostly focused on how we do on the pitch so it's nice to hear the positive steps being made to develop the football club especially the work done in the community.

David Ellis
15 Posted 24/07/2014 at 11:59:22
Matt #12 – yes, I agree. I hope that the management of the club DO see Everton as a business and a brand – not just a club. My kids play mini rugby – thats a club and it's great. But Everton needs to be a business to thrive.

Man Utd stole a march on us all by becoming a proper business in the early 90s. Even Tottenham sign great commercial deals and it's not as if they have outperformed us on the pitch over the last 10 years or have a bigger support base.

I am hoping that the media magic touch of Martinez and better style of play will make us a bit more sexy and we will see our brand value increase.

Gavin Ramejkis
16 Posted 25/07/2014 at 14:54:00
I have to echo the feelings of Matt and Dave regards the club not a brand or business – this smacks of the old boys club we are ran as and why we missed the gravy train and opportunity after opportunity.

This week, we played a game against Tranmere instead of exploiting the newly found interest in America – even more so when we have their national keeper and hero in our ranks. While we have amateurs and ne'erdowells in the positions of power, we won't be able to expand and grow the business and brand which would allow us to develop.

I am all for youth development, being a staunch admirer and follower of Germany, but, even if you do develop youth, without a successful business to keep them, they will be sold off to better-rUn businesses and teams.

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